Tasmanian researchers are looking into expanding the use of hemp crops.
A two-year project led by the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) is researching the multi-purpose use for industrial hemp. Project front-runner, Dr. Beth Penrose says that the research will look into the "nutritional value" of the crops for animal feed as well as seed production. The project, according to Dr. Penrose, will seek if grazing can increase the yield and improve the crop overall.
"We are building on this research by looking at five varieties of industrial hemp, and assessing the effects of genotype, grazing time and environment on the nutritional value," said Dr. Beth Penrose, the Project Leader.
Research will be conducted at a facility near Cressy, North-West coast of Tasmania.
The grazing of industrial hemp remains federally illegal in Australia due to its, albeit extremely low, THC content. This is due to its potential impact on livestock meat and milk. To overcome this, researchers will cut crops at different heights to replicate regular grazing patterns.
The current project will contribute to the research behind the value of the crop. According to President of the Tasmanian Hemp Association (THA), research is needed in order for the industry to continue to thrive.
The THA is pleased to be able to support TIA and UTAS with growers funds to conduct new relevant research for the industry which will help foster a profitable industrial hemp industry for Tasmanian farmers.Tim Schmidt – President of the Tasmanian Hemp Association
The state's optimal climate of seed production makes Tasmania is the leading state of hemp production. It currently contributes to 80% of Australian hemp seed production for food. However, Tasmanian cannabis laws are one of the strictest in the country.
Under these laws, Tasmania remains to be the only state that does not allow patients to apply for medicinal marijuana through the Special Access Scheme (SAS-B) Portal. This makes applying for medicinal cannabis for patients extremely difficult and time consuming. Despite this, Tasmanians appear to be in favour of cannabis for medicinal and adult-use according to a 2018 telephone survey.
The nutritional value of hemp for livestock is becoming an increasing area of interest for state governments around Australia. The Western Australian government, for example, supports the research into hemp in animal feed.
Globally, farmers have been utilising hemp for animal feed for years. Hemp fibre is used for Dutch cattle stock as a supplement to improve milk production and general health. Meanwhile, Denmark researchers found that hemp oil increased the lifespan of piglet stock as well as improved post-weaning complications.
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